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Golden Knights Finding Blueprint for Success

Vegas earned back-to-back wins coming off bye week

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights /

Marc-Andre Fleury was looking his dapper self as he arrived at Bridgestone Arena prior to game time on Saturday night. He had one added accessory, however, which was a lollipop.

Seriously, the future Hall of Fame netminder rolled into the building working over some candy on a stick. When reminded his suspension was over and it was time to get back to work, Fleury grinned his best grin looked at the time and shot back: "Not yet. I've got to finish my sucker first."

Fleury then went out and stopped all 19 shots the Nashville Predators could muster and earned his third shutout of the season and 59th of his career which now ranks 18th in NHL history.

Following the game as Fleury boarded Air VGK and passed through the broadcaster portion of the plane a couple of the resident wise guys took imaginary puffs on cigarettes suggesting Fleury had been on a break all evening due to Nashville's low shot count.

"I could have had a scotch too, like you old guys," countered Flower.

All joking aside, the Golden Knights gave the Predators very little opportunity for offense Saturday night holding a 77-42 advantage in shot attempts and winning the scoring chance battle 38-14. In the high danger department it was 19-4 in favor of Vegas and 7-0 in the third period alone.

Those kinds of numbers will result in all kinds of wins - of both regular season and playoff variety. The shot totals added up to an expected goals number of 3.45 for Vegas and 1.24 for Nashville which is a blueprint for domination in today's NHL.

Lots has been made about the Golden Knights team save percentage number which sits at .902 (17th in the NHL) even after Fleury's perfect performance. But head coach Pete DeBoer said prior to his team's win in Carolina on Friday that it wasn't about goaltending as much as how many good chances his team was giving the opposition.

It's clear part of DeBoer's mandate is to cut down opposition scoring chances. Players were talking after the Nashville game about how effective the team had been in cracking the puck out of the defensive zone.

"We defended hard, we were tight and we got big saves when we needed to," said DeBoer, before touching on why his team was effective on its D-zone exits. "(The players) are working for it. We've got five guys working to come out of our zone together. Early in the process it was one guy working and two or three guys watching. When you get five guys moving up the ice together starting in their own zone, it looks a lot better, it feels a lot better and it gives you a chance to win."

It can be argued we've now seen the VGK formula for success under DeBoer. More importantly, so have his players. It's one thing to originally buy into a message. It's another to do so and then get results. The reward reinforces the message and soon it becomes the standard set by the players. Players, above all, want to win. Show them a path to victory and they'll charge down it.

The Golden Knights played in this manner at times on in their 4-3 win against Carolina and then increased the length of those stretches against Nashville. They took control early and then held on to it.

The blueprint has been established and the next job is to find consistency. To boil it down into one declarative statement: the Golden Knights team we saw Saturday night is a playoff team and more.

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